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Happily ever after

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WELLNESS A new study explains the feel-good movie syndrome

INSPIRING HOPE Will Smith (left) and son Jaden in the film The Pursuit of Happyness
INSPIRING HOPE Will Smith (left) and son Jaden in the film The Pursuit of Happyness

Ever wondered why a movie might leave you with a little spring in your step afterwards? Inspiring stories of people beating the odds could boost confidence in audiences, a new study has found.

Despite the wealth of emotionally evocative content that the entertainment industry produces, relatively little scientific attention has been paid to the subject of media creating positive emotions, specifically, hope, the study says.

In a recent article titled, ‘The Pursuit of Hopefulness: Operationalising Hope in Entertainment Media Narrative’, published in Routledge journal Media Psychology , author Abby Prestin presents the findings of research into the effects on audiences of underdog characters in the entertainment media.

Feelings of hope are associated with benefits for psychological and physical well-being, and efforts to increase or sustain hopeful feelings are increasingly incorporated into wellness interventions. Recent research points to media as uplifting and elevating viewers, and could be a powerful means of generating hope.

Prestin’s research has a number of potentially important results.

Exposure to different types of positive entertainment media, led to positive emotional responses. The results of this study also suggest that underdog narratives not only provide viewers with models of hard work and determination, but that inducing hope may increase the likelihood that viewers will pursue their own goals.

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